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Chris Reynolds: Weather permitting

Chris Reynolds: Weather permitting

Climate change is possibly this year's most publicised and debated topic (though the US election is giving it a run for its money), and Chris Reynolds, a corporate lawyer at AGL Energy, is…

Climate change is possibly this year's most publicised and debated topic (though the US election is giving it a run for its money), and Chris Reynolds, a corporate lawyer at AGL Energy, is certainly in on the action.

Earlier this year Reynolds played a key role in drafting the contract between AGL and Westpac for the first ever trade in Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) permits. Under the contract, AGL has agreed to sell Westpac 10,000 tonnes of permits at $19 a tonne, settling on 1 February 2012.

It was a contract that threw up some drafting challenges, given that the legislation for the scheme - let alone the scheme itself - hadn't yet come into existence, and Reynolds said that a number of different scenarios had to be built into it to deal with the uncertainties surrounding the scheme's structure.

"It was pretty challenging," he admitted. "It went through a number of iterations as we considered the best way to deal with [uncertainties]. And it has some clear conditions precedent, so that if the emissions trading scheme as we anticipate it to be doesn't actually end up coming into existence, then the contract doesn't come into play."

Though the market for CPRS permits is still very much in its infancy, Reynolds foresees that it will become a more significant part of his work.

"As we get closer to having legislation drafted and finalised - and a better hold on what the CPRS will look like - more entities will want to trade in these units," he said. "For instance, [they'll be keen to trade] where they think they can secure supply ... or at least make a good commercial risk decision on supply if they can get a good price at this early stage, rather than waiting to see what happens.

"And if our larger energy customers who have a primary obligation under the CPRS enter into trades, it may help to spread their cash flow so it won't have such a significant financial impact on their business when we get to 2010."

Reynolds's role at AGL also involves reviewing its product marketing campaigns and "green" products have become an important part of AGL's retail portfolio. With "green" marketing claims well and truly under the ACCC spotlight, it's a part of his job that requires particular care and attention.

"You need to be very careful about how you market these [green] products to customers because a lot of customers are really unsure about what they're getting and ... the benefits they're getting. So it's an area where we have to be particularly diligent in what we say to the public and [ensure] that we get the message correct," he said.

Though it's becoming an increasingly significant aspect of his work, climate change law is only a relatively recent addition to Reynolds' resume. A native of New Zealand, Reynolds began his career at Phillips Fox's Wellington office doing general corporate and commercial work. After about 4 years, the travel bug hit and he headed off overseas for a year, the highlight being Canada where he met his wife. He then settled in London for a year, getting a job at US firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood - again focusing on general corporate and commercial work - before permanently moving to Melbourne with his Australian wife.

In Melbourne he initially worked at Clayton Utz then did a brief stint in-house at Racing Victoria, before moving across to AGL where he's been for the last five years.

Though he spent the earlier years of his career in a private practice firm, Reynolds said that he was always drawn to the idea of working in-house. "I think it's the proximity to the business, and feeling like you're really part of that decision making and project creating process - being involved from go to whoa in projects, rather than being called on just to give more discrete elements of advice," he said. "I wanted to get closer to the coalface, if you like."

When Reynolds isn't working, his 21-month-old toddler Charlie keeps him pretty busy. "I try to spend as much time with him as I can," he said. "It is a bit of a balancing act, but I think most professionals who have outside interests or children struggle with the same thing."

>> For the latest news, views and analysis of issues affecting in-house lawyers, check out Lawyers Weekly's dedicated in-house site www.lawyersinhouse.com.au

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